To truly get a taste of “la dolce vita” in Italia, you absolutely must take a day off from sight-seeing and simply enjoy the beauty of nature. What better way to do that than enjoy a day at the beach? But where? The country of Italy is a peninsula surrounded by the sea, with two large islands and countless small islands off its shores. There are so many beaches to choose from! Read on to find out which 12 cities (or small regions) that contain the best beaches for a relaxing day of the sweet life, listed in order from northernmost to southernmost – because it is impossible to differentiate this list from best to worst.
1. Levanto, Liguria
The Cinque Terre are 5 famous villages on the northern coast of Italy, remarkably known for their steep cliff sides, colorful buildings, and blue seas. Levanto is technically not a member village of the Cinque Terre, but it is their nearest neighbor. The beaches in Levanto, specifically Spiaggia di Canuei and Spiaggia Vallesanta, are not made up of the finest grains of sand. Instead, these beaches have rustic pebbles that match the nearby cliffs.
2. Viareggio, Tuscany
If you want to relive your old university “spring break” days, Viareggio is the place for you! This beach city is lively, with a fun boardwalk for drinks, cold treats, and shopping. The majority of the coastline in the city center is paid beaches with lounge chairs and beds for sunbathing to rent. There is a small section along the pier walk that is free to the public, but is often very crowded. If you continue to walk south along the coast from the city center, however, you will find miles of sandy coastline at Spiaggia della Lecciona.
3. Piombino, Tuscany
This quiet coastal town hides some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The water is clear, deep, and richly blue. Sandy beaches are lacking here, but the beautiful rock formations make up for it. Because the water is fairly deep here, it’s a perfect destination for tourists hoping to go snorkeling or take a boat on the water. If you want to feel isolated from the hustle and bustle of urban life, completely hidden from all buildings and other urban services, start the rustic trek for Spiaggia Lunga – a long, rocky beach with beautiful views of endless water and zero buildings in sight to distract you from the beauty of nature.
4. Isola d’Elba, Tuscany
Just off the coast and further into the sea from Piombino, is a large island popular to Tuscans looking for a vacation destination. Elba Island is accessible by ferry from Piombino. Once you arrive at Isola d’Elba, you will quickly remember that you are on an island and everything is a beach! The 2 most favorite beaches on this island are La Biodola and Cavoli. Both beaches are long, sandy, and great for sunbathing.
5. La Pelosa, Sardegna
Your picturesque fantasy of wading into a crystal clear turquoise sea can be made true at La Pelosa. Spiaggia La Pelosa has fine white sand, a long shoreline, and seemingly endless amounts of water that never get too deep. For beach-goers who don’t necessarily want to go swimming, but just want to dip their toes in, this beach is perfect for you! You can walk pretty far from the shore without the water reaching above your knees.
6. Positano, Campagnia
Next to the Cinque Terre, the next most famous coastline in Italy is the Amalfi coast. The coast is spread along the southern part of the country, on a smaller peninsula jutting out from the big city of Naples. The Amalfi Coast is often confused with the Cinque Terre in pictures because both areas are famous for their cliffs, brightly painted buildings, and blue waters. Consider hiking the Path of the Gods on your way to the finish at Positano. Then, you have most certainly earned a day at the iconic beach of Positano Spiaggia; this location is so picturesque it genuinely looks like the set of a movie.
7. Capri, Campgnia
Capri is an island off the Amalfi Coast. It features crystal clear waters, steep cliffsides, and soft sand. One beach is called Bagni di Tibero because Roman Emperor Tiberius left his empire to enjoy the sweet solitude and grand splendor of the beaches of Capri. Another grand attraction on the island, while not a beach per se, is the Grotta Azzurra, which is a serene blue grotto accessible by boat.
8. Gallipoli, Puglia
Down in the heel of the boot that is the country of Italy, is a smaller city called Gallipoli. The city juts out from the mainland, creating its very own tiny peninsula of coastline. South of the city is a long stretch of sandy coastline known as the Spiaggia Baia Verde. The sand is soft and the water is shallow, making for a great location for sunbathers and families with young children.
9. Tropea, Calabria
Tropea as a town is unique for its rocky cliff in the city center. If you are looking for a day-trip to a beach city, but are not interested in spending the entire day in the water, consider Tropea. After a visit to Marasusa Beach and its white sands and clear water, consider a trek back into the city center to take in the unique beauty of the geography of the city. This area truly meets the expectations of its nickname as the Coast of the Gods.
10. Isola Bella, Sicily
The rest of this list takes a turn from mainland Italy and into the unique island region of Sicily. In the region of Sicily is a smaller island near Taormina, called Isola Bella, “Beautiful Island”. The shoreline here is not sandy, but stony and rocky instead. While perhaps not great for walking barefoot and spreading your toes in soft sand, this island is opportune for snorkelers or those wanting to rent a boat to explore the nearby caves.
11. Realmonte, Sicily
Realmonte is a city that lies on the southern side of the island of Sicily. The true gem of Realmonte, however, is the giant limestone rock formation that has come to be called the “Turkish Staircase”. Why a staircase, you ask? Because the rock has been worn and eroded to be shaped like a giant staircase! Visitors might not get the classic sand-and-shore experience at this beach, but sunbathing on the “step” of a giant rock at the edge of the water is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.
12. Lampedusa, Sicily
For animal-lovers, the city of Lampedusa might be the best beach town for you. The Spiaggia dei Conigli is famous for being the home of nesting turtles! The waters here are clear and blue. However, the walk to the beach is not short. It’s a bit of a difficult hike to reach it, but the beautiful and all-natural coastline amongst the nests of turtles is worth the trek.